Potholes and popped tires: Some roads near businesses are privately owned and not maintained by the city
Potholes can cause damage to vehicles, even at below average speeds.
WEST FARGO — When a pothole develops in a city street, residents can alert the West Fargo Public Works department, and crews will examine the issue. But when it comes to some roads, such as the frontage road just north of 13th Avenue that runs between Ninth Street East and 17th Street East, it is up to the businesses in that area to do something about the damaged road, not the city.
The road, which allows access to one of West Fargo's original retail developments and some of its largest stores such as Menard's, HomeGoods and Family Fare, is littered with cracks and potholes that range in size and depth. The holes can cause vehicle damage even at low speeds, including a popped tire that must be replaced if punctured on the sidewall.
Communications Director Melissa Richard said the city receives 12 to 15 complaints about the road each year. City Commissioner Mark Simmons said commissioners have also received many complaints over the years regarding the road.
However, because it is a private road and owned by the surrounding businesses, the city has little authority to cause immediate change.
Deputy City Administrator Tim Solberg said it is common for business developments to incorporate a private road into site plans such as the road that encompasses Costco. The city always retains right of way and easements that allow the city access for utility work and similar projects.
"We do [have easements] in the boulevard, but in this case there is no right of way to do any work even if we wanted to," Solberg said. "We can only do the utilities."
Complicating the matter farther is the number of current owners of the road. Solberg said over the years as businesses have changed hands and morphed into new businesses, the new owners may not even realize they are responsible for the road.
In the case of the road north of 13th Avenue, the development was initially owned by Nash Finch and Menards. It now belongs to many businesses, corporations and some real estate trusts.
"It's not a city road so we're left with very few mechanisms to enforce maintenance," Solberg said.
The city does have one long shot option to cite the businesses for a violation of the property's planned unit development, but it is complicated and doesn't guarantee of change. The city would have to present the case in front of a judge and follow a long process to cite the businesses.
Solberg said while the city still approves private roads in business developments, it now takes pains to ensure that road responsibility is known to current and future owners of the property.
"We write very specific agreements so that if they sell [a business] and it has multiple owners, they are still fully responsible.," Solberg said. "We aren't necessarily doing it differently other than making sure through recorded agreements that owners are aware."
Although the city may not be able to improve the road itself, Mayor Bernie Dardis plans to draft a letter along with Police Chief Denis Otterness, that will be sent to the business owners along the road requesting they repair the road soon.
"It's a safety hazard," Dardis said of the damaged road.
In the meantime, if residents notice a problem on a public road such as a growing pothole or other potential safety hazard such as overgrown trees impeding views of an intersection, they are encouraged to email public works at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (701) 515-5400, or the YourGov website or mobile application.